The Customer is Not Always Right

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The Customer is Not Always Right

I don’t know the origin of the saying “The customer is always right”, but the customer is most definitely not always right.

I have worked in many roles in the service industry, from supermarket cashier, and computer salesman, to freelancer developer, and I can tell you that the customer is usually wrong, but in most cases it’s okay for them to be wrong, or at the very least we tolerate it.

Working in the supermarket, the customer has told me I was wrong many times on the price that goods rang up at, even though they clearly misunderstood what was on sale, but still they got the sale price on items that weren’t on sale.

When selling computers, customer repeatedly ignored my advice on what type of computer they should buy, or how much RAM or hard drive space they should have. They returned to the store after a couple of weeks to complain about how poorly the computer performed. Yes we would tell them, you are absolutely correct, you never should have brought something with those specs and happily charged them more to upgrade the computer.

Working as a designer and developer I’ve also run into many cases of the client being wrong. Despite paying money to hire you because of your skills, they consistently ignore you recommendations.

Yes they know their own customers and their business, but they’ve hired you because you have skill and experience they don’t, or they’d be doing it themselves. Whatever your position you have to make sure you are heard. Since you’re hired to do a job and the customer is paying the bills, ultimately they can make whatever decision they wish above your objections.

Again, make sure you are heard, even if it goes against what the client wants — don’t be rude about it, be professional and make your point. If you’re advice turns out to be right the customer will remember your objections. If you’re advice turns out to be wrong, you will have learned something and the client will remember that even though you objected you followed their wishes.

How have you handled disagreements with your customer?

2 thoughts on “The Customer is Not Always Right

  1. This is an interesting one. I often find it really tough speaking to clients about web design. People say design is a personal preference and that you need to say ‘yes’ to the clients’ wishes.

    As a web design company that promises to deliver results, I think it’s completely wrong to sit back and watch an excellently developed web design be manipulated to suit an individual’s tastes. We’re the experts and know the trends, the things that work and the things that don’t.

    But getting this across in a manner that’s simple to digest at the clients’ end is no easy feat!

    I know when I want something done I want it done in a certain way and I’m always right! So where do I start!?

  2. Charles: You’re totally right in what you’ve said.

    Design is a very personal thing, and the thing I try and tell my clients is that it’s not about you, it’s about your customers. Not everyone will like what you like and not everyone will dislike what you dislike.

    They key as you’ve mentioned is how you get this across. You can’t simply shoot down the clients ideas, you need to lead down a path to what you think will work best for the project.

    You need to stroke the ego of the client, you can see why what they want is a good idea **BUT** my experience has shown that there might be another approach that works better. If you can find some relevant research to prove your point, that really goes a long way.

    At the end of the day all you can do is advice, if they insist on doing something, so be it.

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